“Chasing the Dragon”: There’s Only One Villain for Donnie Yen
Directed by Wong Jing (王晶) and Jason Kwan (關智耀), the Hong Kong crime film Chasing the Dragon <追龍> stars Donnie Yen (甄子丹) as the infamous drug mob boss “Crippled Ho”, who took Hong Kong by storm in the 1970’s. The film costars Andy Lau (劉德華) reprising his role as the corrupted detective Lee Rock. Chasing the Dragon was released in Hong Kong on September 28 and Mainland China on September 30, 2017.
Wong Jing, who had also helmed the 1991 Lee Rock film starring Andy Lau made it clear that Chasing the Dragon is more about the characters’ personal journeys rather than their controversial relationship. His decision to cast Donnie Yen as Cripppled Ho was because the Ip Man <葉問> star rarely presented himself as a complicated anti-hero on the big screen, and has never worked with Andy Lau before. Crippled Ho is a breakthrough role for Donnie’s acting career.
It wasn’t a decision that Donnie took lightly. When he was first offered the role, he meandered around it for a few months. As an action star, Donnie felt obligated to perform in roles that would reflect his martial arts abilities, but as an actor, he should seek roles that are also personally fulfilling and challenging. “This character can be considered as a villain. I’ve never had to play a role like this before. I’ve kept with the image of Ip Man. I’m also a family man, and I want to maintain and continue to send off that positive energy. I thought about it long and hard for a few months. I finally let it all out and told Wong Jing that I would only do this once. Either I don’t do it at all, or I do my best.”
To perfect his portrayal of Crippled Ho, Donnie learned how to speak in the Teochew dialect. As a fan of Ray Lui’s (呂良偉) portrayal of Crippled Ho in the iconic 1991 film To Be Number One <跛豪>, Donnie said his only wish is not do an embarrassing portrayal of the role. “According to my research, Crippled Ho was very skinny and did not have a lot of hair, but Ray gained weight for the role instead. When it comes to a character like this, historical accuracy isn’t important. It gives me room to recreate a role that people would want to see. In the few months before we started filming, I hired a Teochew dialect coach. Even though I would speak Cantonese in the film, it would still have the Teochew accent. Hopefully this would give a fresh feeling for viewers.”
The crew also hired a Hollywood special effects crew for Donnie, who had to spend two hours a day getting on his makeup. “This character is always fighting on the streets, broken bones everywhere. My nose was fake. My lips were thicker than usual. It gives off a domineering feeling.”
It was hard for Donnie to get out of character once he’s out of the studio set. Sometimes, he would limp home without realizing it. His Cheochew dialect would slip out every now and then. He and close friend Karson Choi (蔡加贊), who has Chaozhou ancestry, would converse in the Cheochew dialect. Karson has said before that Donnie’s accent was very accurate.
Working with Andy Lau had been “happy and enjoyable.” Donnie praised Andy for being an extremely experienced actor, and that he has learned a lot from him.”
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.